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HUMAN KINETICS

HK Today

Sports, Character, and HK

Brian Holding

The recent rash of domestic abuse charges facing NFL players once again reminds us that playing sports does not build character. James Michener, in his book Sports in America, quoted the sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun: “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”

 

How true. It is something Human Kinetics has been teaching since 1981 when HK founder Rainer Martens developed the American Coaching Effectiveness Program, a division of HK. Character is taught and nurtured at home, at school, in religious settings, and by coaches. Rainer writes to coaches in the all-time best-selling coaching resource Successful Coaching, “Character education begins with a fundamental duty of a coach—building a team culture. How you run your team greatly influences the team culture, which has an enormous influence on the character of development of your athletes. ”

 

HK author Dan Gould wrote in a recent issue of the Elevate Health, the quarterly research digest of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and nutrition, “Sports programs are much more likely to lead to desirable outcomes if those coaching and organizing these programs place primary emphasis on the intentional teaching of social and psychological outcomes. A great myth of American sports is that sports ‘automatically’ builds character.”

 

 

As Cliff Mallett, director of the Australian Centre for Sport, Physical and Health Education Research and chair of the University of Queensland’s Sport Coaching Department and Institute, says, “The quality of athletes’ sport experience often depends on the quality of sport leadership.”

 

Having worked with groups like the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Associations, we can attest that high-quality leadership exists in some quarters of sport. But, unfortunately, in too many cases, an apparent lack of initiative or resources leaves a large void in leadership, and sound principles are not communicated. As a result, those who are on the front lines—coaches—are not properly prepared to instill those principles.

 

No such void exists in the American Football Coaches Association, where executive director Grant Teaff, a successful former coach and college athletic director, has presided for the past 20 years. Grant not only leads and learns; he also listens. About four years ago, when he heard from his members a pattern of responses about the most pressing challenge of their role, he took steps to address it. The chorus of concerns related to the social issues coaches found themselves dealing with every day: peer pressure, broken homes, sense of entitlement, lack of accountability, disrespect, and poor character.

 

So Grant took charge. Not only did he write a book titled A Coach’s Influence: Beyond the Game, but he also actively solicited from his members examples of effective development and intervention programs that coaches around the country were applying to counteract these problems. That’s leadership. When Grant wanted to develop a course from his book to better equip current and new coaches to handle such matters, he turned to HK vice president and sport coaching director Ted Miller. Ted has worked with Grant and the AFCA since the early 1990s in publishing eight books, which have sold more than 330,000 copies. Ted was made an honorary member of the AFCA in 2012.

 

Over the past 33 years, about 1.5 million coaches have gone through HK coaching education courses. Millions more have purchased our coaching and sport instructional books. Yet despite our best efforts, only a small fraction of college, high school, and youth coaches receive any formalized coaching education. As a result, you can be a math teacher and not take a single class in kinesiology (including basic exercise physiology) yet coach a high school football team on a hot August afternoon.

 

HK is not backing away from the challenge of educating more coaches. The American Coaching Effectiveness Program became the American Sport Education Program. We still use that program name with many of our courses and books. However, we now call our overall initiative Human Kinetics Coach Education to reflect branded education programs with various partners and international collaboration with organizations such as the International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE). With the ICCE, HK has published the International Sport Coaching Framework. Along with the ICCE and SHAPE America, HK is publishing the International Sport Coaching Journal (ISCJ).

 

HK is adding more expertise. Joining Ted in HK’s Coach Education is ISCJ’s editor in chief Wade Gilbert, PhD, an award-winning professor in the department of kinesiology at California State University at Fresno. Wade will serve as an advisor and representative as HK develops its next generation of coach education products. He also will be writing articles for multiple online venues and conducting webinars on various coaching topics.

 

HK will continue to publish branded coach education courses for organizations like Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Baseball, the Virginia High School League, the Florida Department of Education, the Illinois High School Association, and dozens of other high school, youth, and college groups.

 

We will continually remind coaches that having their athletes simply playing their sports will not build character. As Rainer put it, “Good intentions are not enough to be successful. You need all the knowledge you can get.”

 

 

 



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